Drawing Away Stables' Saginaw turned in another remarkable effort in the $98,000 Affirmed Success Handicap June 1 at Belmont Park, overcoming early trouble and a tepid pace before shoving his way out at the head of the stretch en route to his 20th win (VIDEO).
The 7-year-old gelded son of Peruvian got up over Fiddlers Afleet by half a length in the final strides of the 6 1/2-furlong contest after grinding down the competition with his trademark determination. He finished in 1:15.39 under Junior Alvarado while carrying high weight of 123 pounds.
Saginaw, favored at 3-5 in the field of five, was at a disadvantage from the start as jockey Luis Saez gunned Flying Zealous to the lead and angled over to the rail spot. Fiddlers Afleet and Mine Over Matter followed for a quarter in :23.12, while grade I winner Willy Beamin had Saginaw boxed in at the rail.
The eventual winner raced third and was forced to check going into the far turn as Flying Zealous maintained the advantage for a half in :46.04, with Fiddlers Afleet pressing on his outside. Alvarado finally was able to find running room outside of those two and inside Willy Beamin coming off the final turn, and set hard-knocking Saginaw down for his run in the final furlongs.
The David Jacobson trainee next had to deal with Fiddlers Afleet, who had taken the lead. He put that rival away with a strong outside run through three-quarters in 1:09.43.
Saginaw has now won 14 of his last 18 starts.
"He was really sharp today," Alvarado said. "He's definitely an unbelievable horse. He broke good, and I tried to relax him a little bit, but as soon as I put him in a clear spot outside, he just did it himself. He just found a way to win."
Saginaw returned $3.40, $2.70, and $2.10, while Fiddlers Afleet paid $5.60 and $2.60, and Flying Zealous paid $2.30. Mine Over Matter and Willy Beamin completed the order of finish; Be Bullish scratched.
Saginaw, bred in New York by Ted Taylor, is out of the Devil's Bag mare Devilzene and now has a 20-6-3 record from 39 starts with earnings of $914,690. He was claimed by Drawing Away last March for $30,000 and came into the Affirmed Success off a nose victory in a May 12 starter allowance at Belmont in which he carried 130 pounds while spotting his competitors eight. He has now won nine stakes races.
"It's a very good accomplishment when you start hitting these kinds of numbers with a horse," Jacobson said. "It's exciting for us to have Saginaw going into Saratoga off a magnificent performance like this. They really had him boxed in there; they knew who the horse was to beat. He found a way. Like most great athletes, he has that instinct—he has to win."